The Derecho: “Now Let Us Have Our Way And Be Gone”

“Now Let Us Have Our Way And Be Gone”, a quote from Senator Stanley (R-Brylcreem) largely sums the problems many have with the Imperial Clown Show.  Me thinks Senator Stanley doth protest too much.

Senator Stanley’s petulant rant on the Senate Floor during debate of HB1766 (Habeeb) ultimately underscored the concerns of many residents of the Commonwealth (not merely those in Prince William County) and furthered the impression that many in the upper house of the Imperial Clown Show are nothing more than self absorbed stooges of their largest political donors.  I would note however that although I took Senator Wagner to task earlier in the week, I will give credit when credit is due and he was one of the few adults in the room yesterday when he expressed his support of Senator Stuart’s amendment.  Senator Wagner thus gets a “Derecho Gold Star” for his handling of HB1766, albeit probably his first and last.

I should point out a few things to the tone-deaf Senator from Appalachia.  First, nobody is questioning the need or intent of the bill as applied to the APCO service area.  What is in question is the potential for future amendment and unforeseen consequences elsewhere in the Commonwealth.  Most have an expectation that such concerns regarding legislative impacts are a consideration in the drafting of legislation and subsequent debate.  NOVA isn’t pushing ROVA around on this issue, its residents are simply asserting that this particular piece of one-size-fits-all legislation only fits Southwestern Virginia.  I guess its pretty easy to pick on NOVA when a large part of your Senate District’s educational and tax funding is derived from NOVA residents’ tax receipts; residents to whom you have no direct connection or accountability.  I don’t know about his part of the Commonwealth but across the rest of the state, I suspect most expect the Legislature to craft responsible legislation that considers impacts across the Commonwealth.  I will remind you of your focus on localized impacts next time the Imperial Clown Show entertains bills designed to squeeze more tax dollars solely out of the residents of NOVA and Tidewater.

If, as you have repeatedly stated, HB1766 and SB1110 are Southern Virginia bills, then you should have no problem accepting amendments which restrict their application to Southern Virginia.  Your repeated resistance to such amendments both in Committee and on the Senate floor merely furthers the impression that the purpose is not simply to address problems in Southern Virginia but also to set the stage for Dominion Power elsewhere in the Commonwealth.  Unless your resistance is simply a manifestation of an overbearing ego, me thinks you doth protest too much.

To that end, your repeated assertions that this is simply to address the approval of transfer stations and will not strip localities of their existing authority over zoning review and approval, is simply untrue. Did you not read the text of your legislation before and after you submitted it?  To review it provides as follows:

Provides that the issuance by the State Corporation Commission of a certificate of public convenience and necessity for construction of an electrical transmission line of 138 kilovolts and any associated facilities shall be deemed to satisfy local comprehensive plan requirements and all local zoning ordinances with respect to the transmission line and associated facilities. The measure defines “associated facilities” as including any station, substation, transition station, and switchyard facilities to be constructed in association with the 138 kilovolt transmission line.

Let me be clear, under the existing statutes,”associated facilities” namely stations, substations, transition stations, and switchyard facilities are under the purview of the localities and not the SCC.  You said as much yourself in noting that the legislation is in response to the Skiffs Creek decision.  While your constituent residents and localities may have a wonderful and trustworthy relationship with APCO, many of us in the remainder of the Commonwealth do not have such a relationship with Dominion Virginia Power, rather, we have one that can at best be described as adversarial.  Beating up on Dominion is not so much a blood sport in these parts but rather a necessary response to their often questionable tactics and less than forthcoming disclosures.  Before you next blast the residents and elected officials of Prince William County, perhaps you should walk a few miles in our shoes.

Which takes us to Senator Stanley’s Voodoo Doll analogy.  Senator Stanley, you sure do know how to dig your holes deeper with your mouth.  Riddle me this Senator, if the Senator Stuart’s amendment is simply a voodoo doll and more particularly a voodoo doll that can’t protect us, pray tell what is it that the voodoo doll can’t protect us from?  I think we know the answer and your statement strongly underscores our concern that HB1766 and SB1110 are merely the first step in legislative strategy designed to strip all localities of their existing authority over zoning review and approval allowing to Dominion and other utilities to venue shop and circumvent local opposition.  You see Senator Stanley, this isn’t our first rodeo and we are quite versed in how the sausage is made at the local, state and Federal levels, largely because many of us have long term professional experience with the process.

SB1110 is scheduled for its third reading in the House today and in all likelihood a similar amendment will be offered.  It is my hope that the amendment is accepted and that the behavior of the Delegates is more mature than that of their counterparts in the Senate.  Delegate Habeeb, it would be nice if you got out in front of the matter in a fashion similar to Senator Wagner.  Look at it as an opportunity to be an adult in the room.